While fourth-year medical school students all over the country were biting their nails in anticipation of Match Day, held nationally on the third Friday in March every year, seniors in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (DGSOM) were also busy preparing for Senior Scholarship Day, another important annual event in March that now occurs the day before Match Day.
Research and (professional) development
During the fourth year of medical school at DGSOM, each student selects a college of specialty from the school's specialty choices: academic medicine, acute care, applied anatomy, primary care and urban underserved colleges. Part of that requirement is to complete a scholarly research project in that area with the oversight of an assigned mentor and present it to the entire senior class, faculty and Medical Student Thesis Committee.
"Given that UCLA is an academic institution, our medical students have so many research opportunities at their doorstep," says Aurora Reyes, career development coordinator for the fourth-year colleges. It's her job to ensure that all students have their applications and submissions in on time, and that students are working with their mentors from the beginning of their fourth year to meet this graduation requirement. Scientific research is a big part of medical education in general, and Reyes believes taking advantage of research opportunities in DGSOM makes medical students more competitive overall.
Shamar Jones, Research Advisor for DGSOM students, notes that "Scholarship Day is collaborative event that gives students a chance to share their efforts with their peers and mentors."
For Senior Scholarship Day, students present original research conducted during their second through fourth years of medical school. Students may also present a teaching innovation with evidence of evaluation, a study of health policies and practices or a case presentation with a review of related research. All students are required to create a visual presentation of his or her work, usually in the form of a research poster that includes a well-written, intriguing title and abstract for the project.
This year on March 19, half an hour was allotted to students during the morning to view all the posters before engaging in group discussions. All seniors were required to attend the final oral presentation of the five chosen outstanding projects.
Why it's important
Dr. Margaret Stuber, assistant dean for well-being and career advising, is the faculty coordinator for Senior Scholarship Day. It is her job to arrange the projects into relatable groups and assign a faculty discussion leader for each one based on the topic. She also evaluates the project nominations from each college chairperson on the most outstanding abstracts, ultimately deciding which will become an oral presentation — one each from the five colleges.
Senior Scholarship Day, she says, is an important intellectual exercise for seniors because they will be attending national meetings throughout their career. Learning how to present their research at those meetings is a crucial skillset.
"Feeling comfortable presenting case studies and original ideas and research to a professional group means students are able to concisely think through what they know and don't know and also being able to entertain using the presentation to keep people engaged," explains Dr. Stuber. "We want to give students the forum to develop their own way to pull people in with their research and ideas and be able to explain scientific and medical concepts simply."
It's also an important graduation requirement for DGSOM seniors completing their medical education.